JUST CAUSE: No Virginia, this isn’t Mister Roger’s neighbourhood

Recently it was reported that prejudice on a fairly significant scale exists in Campbell River against people who rent

There is just cause to suggest that we are not living in Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

Recently it was reported that prejudice on a fairly significant scale exists in Campbell River against people who rent. This “don’t you be my neighbor” mentality is reportedly supported by council who dropped a rezoning application (but still pocketed the $2,700 application fee) without exercising due process and flying in the face of their own community plan.

Why does anyone equate a renter with being a sub-standard individual? Why is it assumed that renters will bring down the “form and character” of an established neighbourhood as assumed by Coun. Roy Grant? Why would the mistaken belief that is was a duplex application give the public the “wrong impression” Mr. Grant? Why do the residents of South McLean area think that renters are synonymous with noise, traffic, drug dealing and decreased property values? Of course, in the suburbs of Campbell River, a dealer or a grow-op owner or a meth lab owner would never ever own a home, such people are only renters, right? Everyone knows renters are more inclined to crime, loud parties and shady lifestyles. Or so our sensitivities dictate.

These people insist that housing values will decrease because renters have no pride or vested interest in where they live. I do agree some people have no pride but that is not a product of being a renter it is a product of not having pride and respect.

This situation does not support the “neighborhood diversity and healthy communities” of our city plan, this is blatant discrimination and constitutes an unfair intervention into the housing market to limit access for one particular group of people.

In our current economy, many houses aren’t selling and as more people don’t have the credit to buy houses, more families are renting in neighbourhoods that normally wouldn’t have renters. How are the “renters” being treated by the neighbours? Do homeowners take the time to get to know them? Do homeowners invite them to the neighbourhood events? Or do they just shun them; students, young couples starting out, people who have lost jobs, ended marriages, run out of employment insurance, lost their homes, work for minimum wages, or find themselves on income assistance. Is there no “zone” for them in our Official Community Plan except at the back end of the community?

I bet some of these “renters” do everything they can to enhance their income. They probably collect bottles and other recyclables so they can pay their rent and eat, buy prescription medications or pay their hydro bills. It is apparently not such a beautiful day in the neighbourhood when these “scavengers” are lurking around the community recycling bins.

Someone complained that she didn’t feel safe getting out of her car and had to go to the landfill instead. She wants them fined. The problem is they wouldn’t be able to pay it unless they had access to bottles.

All of these scavengers are poor. They are single disabled people getting up to $375 a month to rent and $531 a month to pay for everything else. They are single parents with a couple of kids who are collecting up to $660 for rent and $376 for everything else. They are students trying to work it out on a student loan. They are full time service workers whose minimum wage pay cheques are $640 before deductions. They have children who are suffering from the highest poverty rate in Canada and constitute over 50 per cent of food bank use.  Sitting on a pail outside a recycling bin is humiliating as is waiting around with a shopping cart. A sign saying “No Scavenging” is not going to deter someone who needs their diabetic supplies or to feed their children. They are not boogey-men. They are poor men, and women, who would just really appreciate you giving them your bottles and not judging them because they are not like you. What needs to go into the landfill is your bigotry and attitudes, not your recyclables.

In Mister Rogers neighbourhood you don’t have to look like everybody else and be like everybody else to be acceptable and to feel acceptable. (Fred Rogers). I wish, we, as neighbours, could live with such authenticity, wisdom and kindness.

Sian Thomson is executive director of the Island (Justice, Advocacy, Dignity and Empowerment ) J.A.D.E. Society – www.islandjadesociety.ca